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Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist - Zoey's Extraordinary Mystery - Review: Freaky

In Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’s second annual glitch episode, a mystical mix-up leads to an entertaining mystery to unravel - and simultaneously the show’s funniest and most heartbreaking episode of the season thus far. Read on for my review of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Mystery”:

As a belated birthday present, Mo is taking Zoey to Nova, his medium, to try and contact her dad (although you have to admit, even from the start there is no way this goes well). Predictably, the visit goes less than stellar, as Nova “contacts” her dad for a few seconds, “senses” that he likes movies, and then deems the session over.

Meanwhile, Zoey and Simon’s episode-ending kiss last week apparently turned into a hook-up, which turned into several weeks of hook-ups. In fact, Zoey and Simon are actually pretty much dating now, which makes the whole “pause with Max” thing even weirder - although, I guess not that weird, because even after denying interest in Rose in last week’s episode, Max and his camp crush are now several dates strong as well.

That night, Zoey and Max are waiting for dates with Simon and Rose, respectively. Max tells Zoey everything is going well with Rose, but then, as she walks in, he starts singing “Anyone” by Demi Lovato - a song about feeling helpless and hopeless. However, when she tells him what he sang, he insists that his heart song doesn’t match how he really feels. The problem doesn’t seem to be with Rose, either, who seems kind and welcoming to Zoey, and not cruel or abusive whatsoever. Are Zoey’s powers on the fritz once again? Zoey’s signature intro even glitches out, as she exclaims that something here is really “fu……..nky.”

The next day, Zoey goes to Mo to tell him that her powers might be malfunctioning again. Mo advises her that she might be reading too much into things, and to interrogate Max to try to evoke another song. While that plan doesn’t work, Zoey does confess to Max that she’s thinking of telling Simon about her powers.

At SPRQ Point, Zoey’s powers glitch again, as in the middle of an argument the 4th floor crew suddenly all break out into “One” by Three Dog Night (“One is the loneliest number”). A bit of clarity is shed onto the situation that night, when Maggie expresses her loneliness after hosting her first dinner party as a widow - and begins singing “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.” The programmers’ song and Maggie’s song got switched!

The next morning, as Zoey describes the phenomenon to Mo, Perry shows up at the house after having left his first night with Mo early to take care of his kids. Mo begins to sing “The More I Drink” by Blake Shelton - a song one would not peg to be a part of Mo’s usual repertoire.

Wondering if Nova somehow caused this to happen to her, Zoey and Mo return to her house. Seemingly useless once again, all Nova tells Zoey is something about someone with an “M” name. Unsatisfied (she does have a lot of “M” names in her life), Zoey determines that to fix this new glitch, she needs to figure out who sang what song to undo the switch. Subsequently, she goes around trying to pry emotion out of everyone she knows in order to get as many heart songs as possible to work with.

Her first try is on Simon, who gives her an enthusiastic performance of “What Does the Fox Say” (I long for the days I thought I would never hear that song again). This scene was wacky and weird, but was saved by just how much John Clarence Stewart seemed to be having fun - he’s really been showing off this season just how much of an infectious performer he can be.

Next, Mo and Zoey go to Rose’s art show, and find her singing Dua Lipa’s “IDGAF” while staring at the champagne server - she was supposed to be the country drinking song, and this nonchalant heartbreak ballad was meant for Mo. Zoey apologetically blows off a date with Simon to consult with Rose about her apparent drinking problem, and Rose tells Zoey that she’s been sober for a little over a year, and is afraid to tell Max about it. Zoey encourages her to tell the truth (even as she still hesitates to tell Simon about her own big secret).

Mo finds out that Perry’s son’s stuffed animal that went missing is a fox, indicating that he was likely the intended singer of “What Does the Fox Say.” Zoey tracks down Perry to coax Simon’s song out of him, but it turns out that the Fox Song was actually from Perry’s son - who starts singing “Love On the Brain” by Rihanna. Simon’s feelings in that moment were romantic, but a kid singing Zoey a seductive love song - weird!

When her moment comes to tell Simon about her powers, Zoey chickens out, even though she’s just learned (in the oddest way possible) that Simon is serious about her. She can’t even tell him the truth after he reveals that he made her a stepstool to reach the clothes in her closet better! Instead of giving him her real "big secret," she tells him about an embarrassing but not bombshell-worthy story about an ex from college.“Thank you for telling me all your secrets,” Simon says.

Most of the mix-ups are now cleared up, but one still remains - who was the devastatingly heartbroken person singing Max’s song? Zoey feelas that the one person who needed her most is just out of her reach, and with most of the people in her life’s feelings now accounted for, she’s unsure what she’s supposed to do to solve the mystery.

After another visit to Nova, who emphasizes the importance of not only listening for people’s heart songs, but trying to pay attention to the people who might not be singing their feelings out loud, Zoey realizes that “M” actually stands for “Em,” who has been acting mostly fine, but reaching out in subtler ways all week. Zoey recognizes that because Emily hasn’t been singing right in front of her face like everyone else, she just assumed she was fine.

But when Zoey finally goes to visit Emily, she starts singing “Rosanna” - very clearly Max’s song. Recognizing what this means, Zoey tells Emily that she’s listening to her, triggering Emily to switch to a painful, teary reprise of “Anyone.” “It’s okay,” Zoey says. “I’m listening.”

In wackier episodes like this, ones that could feel trite, cringe, or formulaic on their own, the cast really carries it. The direction and choreography for the songs always keep the balance of camp and seriousness, and the actors fit into their roles for any given number phenomenally. Jane Levy continues to have expert comedic timing, and Skylar Astin and John Clarence Stewart are extraordinarily capable no matter what is tossed at them (see: Max’s heartbreaking “Anyone” and Simon’s exuberant “What Does the Fox Say”).

Truly, the cast of Zoey is its real secret weapon - it’s easy to understand, especially after episodes like this, that absolutely nothing about this show would be half as interesting, entertaining or worth investing time in with even a slightly less talented group. This is, yes, a note toward to the show’s major structural flaws that still continue to glare even after almost 2 full seasons, but it is also a statement of admiration for the consistently spot-on acting work of the entire extended Zoey cast - to quote a recent meme, they always understand the assignment.

While probably not topping last year’s “glitch” episode (truly, what could?), “Mystery” seems to be the show steadying back on its feet a little bit after the fraught past several episodes that lacked Zoey’s’ most valuable assets - strong, character-driven moments and surprising emotional depth. Hopefully, this second season will be able to close just as well as the first (and now that Zoey is with Simon and Max is with Rose, lay back on the love triangle?), but for the first time in several weeks, I’ve got a good feeling about it.

What did you think about “Zoey’s Extraordinary Mystery?” If we’re renewed for season 3 (please please please), should these “glitch” episodes become a yearly tradition? And can we talk about Alice Lee for a second (or for forever)?! Head into the comments and let me know!

Zoey’s Extraordinary Quotes-list:

Zoey: I think my powers are malfunctioning again.
Mo: Malfunctioning how? You only hear jazz? Oh, you only hear animals? You only hear animals singing jazz?
Zoey: No, I heard Max sing this heartbreaking, super sad heart song. Like his soul was breaking. But he swears he’s fine, and actually, I mean, he did seem fine!
Mo: Well, as Detective Olivia Benson would say - HE’S LYING!
(Mo slams his coffee down on the table).
Mo: That wasn’t worth it, I spilled my coffee everywhere - and on me!

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